Kyudo · Nobiai · Tsumeai - Correct Form

Realigning our Minds

This is a continuation from the last post, “Everything You Know is Wrong.”

As I mentioned there, recently I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting with a teacher who was able to show me that everything I was doing was wrong. The funny thing is, that I believed that all of the previous things I was doing were right and faithfully following them. But all of those previous ideas of technique made walls keeping me from doing what I want to do in shooting the bow like executing proper nobiai (expansion), tsumeai (alignment of the joints in proper form), maintaining the kihon-no-shisei (fundamental form), moving with proper kihon-no-dosa (fundamental movements), and protecting the tate-yoko-ju-mon-ji (vertical and horizontal crosses in the body). Maybe the faulty technique I was using was better than what I was previously doing, but it’s time to change and evolve. This change starts in the mind by understanding what you want to do, and how it will help you achieve the physical practical results you want. Next comes the hard work of putting the new ideas to practice switching from the makiwara (practice shooting bail) in front of the mirror to the target at 28 meters, and then back to the makiwara. After that you check back with your teacher to evaluate your progress, and then get back to work. Through this process our performance in tests and tournaments will improve and we will able to more deeply feel the pulling of the bow and the experience of life.

Here I’d like to quickly go over all of the details of technique that I seek to change, and hopefully in the next few posts I can go more in depth on specific points one at a time. Maybe you can benefit from some of these tid-bits of technique. Maybe they are not how you want to shoot the bow and you can ignore them. Or perhaps they won’t make any sense because trying to explain them here, especially without any pictures or videos (something I hope to include more of in the future) makes it really hard to imagine how all of this is working.

Regardless … here we go!

1.) Sinking your shoulders

This is the big one for me right now. Until now I’ve focused on keeping my left shoulder down, but I’ve had my right shoulder float up from uchiokoshi on. I was told it’s OK to raise up the right shoulder throughout the form (which does so naturally a little and can’t be helped it seems). However, I was recently told to keep it dropped as much as possible. By not raising our shoulders, we can protect the tension and connections in our arms, to our back, and legs. In other words, when we let our shoulder rise freely in our form, we break a lot of the connections in our form, which makes our shot weak and executed by the release of the hands (instead with the whole body) and forces us to do a lot of extra stuff at the release to compensate for the disconnections. We’re talking about the shoulder here, but what is at the source of the shoulder is our back muscles. I hope to talk more about this in the next post.

2.) Maintaining the shape of the right arm throughout the form

Until now, I’ve sought to make my right forearm as parallel with the ground as possible, trying to use my right elbow to pull the bow while relaxing my right hand. However, doing so ruins the beneficial tension and shape of our right arms. When we put our right hands on our hip bones and flare our elbow out in the dozukuri posture, we are supposed to protect this form from then on until the release at hanare. Dozukuri, same curved shape. Same when we grab the string (tori-kake) in the yugamae posture. Same when we raise the bow in uchiokoshi. Same as when we move into daisan. I was told it should be the same in kai (full draw), but that seems impossible and I guess changes a bit. Maybe the teacher just meant image-wise. But basically, we must protect the form of our right arms throughout our form from the beginning in the tori-yumi shisei, more specifically from the dozukuri posture, until the release. By trying to keep my right arm as parallel as possible with the ground in dai-san, I was breaking the form and tension made earlier in the form, causing me to make up for that loss of tension with other strange habits.

3.) Maintaining the form (curve) of our right arm when torikake (grabbing the string)

Before I wasn’t thinking at all when grabbing the string (torikake) and so was doing a lot of strange things that broke the tension and form of my right arm made in dozukuri. Instead, we should torikake while maintaining the shape of our right arms.

4.) Angle thumb down in torikake

Angle the thumb down when grabbing the string which connects your hand in the kake to the string, maintains a connection between your hand, arm, shoulder, back, legs, and ground.

5.) Shoulder pulls to the side, not behind you or at some strange angle

In order to successfully expand with proper nobiai, we want to find a position where we can effectively expand forever. That space has our elbows expand to our sides. This is a space where we can find security and balance and effectively expand. If we pull at strange angles, we start to contort our body and keep a natural release from happening and also start to invite a myriad of injuries.

6.) Connect the thumb to the middle finger on our left hand tenouchi

I usually do a good job closing my pinky and thumb together which is one important part of making a proper grip on the bow (tenouchi), but I totally suck at maintaining the connection between my thumb and middle finger, which is arguably the most important connection in the making of the tenouchi.

There are a few other small details that are connected to these larger points, and other points I think I’ve forgotten already!!!

Well, it starts here. Realign our sights, use our discerning eyes to carefully monitor our progress, and consult with more skilled and experienced archers.

The nature of it all is change. Let’s ride it.

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